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Strategy: Educating the Public About Hate Crimes

Strategy Educating police, schools, students, and communities about hate and bias crimes helps create healthy, safe, and violence-free environments . . .

Strategy

Educating police, schools, students, and communities about hate and bias crimes helps create healthy, safe, and violence-free environments in which children can learn.  These criminal acts, in which the victim is targeted because of race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, are designed to intimidate victims and other members of the victim's community and leave them feeling isolated, vulnerable, and fearful.

Community Problem Addressed

Prejudice and intolerance continue to be a problem in the United States. According to a 1993 report issued by the FBI, data collected from 2,800 police departments in 32 states revealed 4,755 bias-related crimes. Because this figure does not include the majority of police departments, the actual figure is likely higher. In many cases, such behavior is borne out of misplaced fear and ignorance of those with languages, customs, and behaviors different from the majority population of the community.

Key Components

Law enforcement, government and private agencies, and community members conduct educational programs about hate crime awareness and prevention to schools and community groups throughout the community. These programs raise awareness of hate crimes and aid in creating communities respectful of tolerance and diversity. Creating awareness in the law enforcement community about the nature and impact of hate crimes builds their skills in identifying, dealing with, and preventing hate crime incidents.

Relevant government and non-governmental agencies can facilitate training for teachers, school administrators, parents, clergy, and business leaders, which generates a healthier community and an atmosphere where hate crimes are less likely to occur. Moreover, in instances in which they do occur, strong local policy and education efforts minimize the tendency toward underreporting.

Key Partnerships

Garnering police support for hate crime education programs and working with each school system is key in combating the problem of the underreporting of hate crime incidents. Collaboration among advocacy and victim services organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, attorney general's office, and local prosecutors also promotes the sharing of information about incidents of hate crimes. These partners also participate in conducting hate crime education trainings for local schools, police, and community groups.

Potential Obstacles

It may be difficult to monitor student behavior outside of the classroom. Additionally, communities as a whole must want to implement tolerance education programs. For instance, teachers need training and instruction on how to model ideas and present values.  Some schools may also be resistant to receiving training from outside agencies.

Funding for this strategy might prove to be an obstacle for both community group training and for school-based programs. Grants from state or federal government agencies or foundations represent possible resources for funding. Community foundations, local corporations and businesses, and locally based corporate foundations also can help.

Examples of Success and Results

In Massachusetts, the Governor's Task Force on Hate Crimes founded the Student's Civil Rights Project in 1998. The task force began because it recognized that bias- and hate-related violence in schools had to be addressed.  After conducting initial research, the task force found that much of this violence was motivated by differences in sexual orientation, religion, disability, ethnicity, and gender. The purpose of the program is to create safe environments for youth, police, and teachers.

The task force is run through the Executive Office of Public Safety and it serves the entire state of Massachusetts, including many small cities like Randolph, Westborough, and Newburyport [all populations under 50,000]. The program receives $200,000 from the federal government through a grant from the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance program.

The Student Civil Rights Project works with many different organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, the attorney general's office, and all of the local district attorney's offices. These partners conduct many of the training classes for teachers and police. The emphasis of the police trainings is on their responses to and proper reporting of hate crimes. As of 1999, the Student Civil Rights Project is working on designing a school curriculum on hate crime prevention.

As a result of Student Civil Rights Project trainings, eight schools started violence prevention programs and are now conducting diversity workshops. The Student Civil Rights Project also plans to place a civil rights coordinator in each of the schools in the state, with the intent that the position will be responsible for hate crime education of students, teachers, and administrators.

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